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Changes suggested for city’s permitting process

By Staff | May 25, 2011

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Permitting Process Code Review Subcommittee, several modifications to existing notification requirements pertaining to Land Development Code Section 86-43, as well as the creation of a new development permit application related to the upcoming passage of the city’s Resort Housing Redevelopment Ordinance, were suggested by Planning Department Director Jimmy Jordan.

“For the most part, staff is of the opinion that prior reviews of the Permitting Process Committee yielded significant improvements to both the efficiency and effectiveness of the permitting process,” Jordan told the five-member panel. “There has always been, and will likely continue to remain, a certain lack of preparedness by an applicant attempting to permit certain project requests. It is the opinion of staff that most of these types of encounters are due to a lack of appreciation and understanding of the process and the purpose behind the zoning requirements of the Land Development Code and applicable policies, goals and objectives of the Sanibel Plan.”

Jordan introduced a proposal that would alter the notification requirements of LDC Section 86-43 (Appearance of structures; Size and Mass of Structures) as it pertains to modifications made to the three-dimensional outline of a structure and the appropriate homeowners’ association, if registered with the City of Sanibel.

In many cases, Jordan explained, notices are sent out without any response.

With respect to modifications made to the three-dimensional outline of a structure, in many applications the requirements are too broad, and involve minor improvements that have no significant impact on the overall size and appearance of a structure.

According to Jordan, notification to HOAs has been done in the past as a courtesy, not a requirement of the permitting process.

Subcommittee member Tom Krekel responded that if such notification is only done as a courtesy, in the public’s opinion, it is viewed as a requirement. Jordan stated that his staff will come up with language which clearly defines what minor modifications are.

Krekel, as well as several subcommittee members, expressed their concern for after-the-fact permit applications. In the past two months, the Planning Commission has heard no less than three such applications, which had been granted preliminary approval by department staffers.

“I know it put the commission in a place it didn’t want to be,” said Jordan, “but I think the outcome did turn out favorably.”

Krekel suggested that those applications “puts the city in a no-win situation.” Holly Smith agreed, adding, “I am not in favor of these deviations… period.” She also explained that after-the-fact applications puts the Planning Commission in a very difficult position, “which it shouldn’t be put in in the first place.”

Jordan noted that he and his staff are working towards presenting a “cleaner” application and development permit form, and there is no way to “fast-track” any applications through his department.

In his staff report, which tracks permit applications over the last four years, Jordan stated that short form permits rose slightly in FY2009-10 to 285, up from 267 the previous year. Long form permits dropped to 16, down from 19, while applications for single-family and duplex dwelling units rose to 20, up from 11. Major remodeling permit applications dropped from 33 to 21.

Overall, permit applications jumped from 502 in FY2008-09 to 522 last year.

Later, Jordan told the subcommittee that the city has implemented a new tracking system which allows the department to conduct a search by street address. The results of the search will include a history of permit applications specific to that address, as well as any open applications, code enforcement cases and any actions related to the property by the City Council or Planning Commission.

The next meeting of the subcommittee will be held on Tuesday, June 28 starting at 9 a.m.